What’s up, doc? Tell me over my smartphone, please

What’s up, doc? Tell me over my smartphone, please, by Charles Wallace.

This year, a German businesswoman arrived in Washington DC and promptly developed a painful sinus infection. She searched online and found a local doctor, Suzanne Galli. But instead of ordering a taxi to visit Dr Galli’s office, the patient arranged a virtual consultation via her smartphone from the comfort of her hotel room, with the help of an app called HealthTap.

The app’s algorithm matched the patient’s symptoms with Dr Galli’s expertise. Dr Galli prescribed medicine and sent the prescription electronically to a pharmacy near the patient’s hotel — all in about 10 minutes. …

In the US, one of the world’s most expensive markets for medical care, telemedicine providers estimate that savings can range from $200 to $700 per patient visit. For patients, prices start at $9.99 for a medical question posed to a doctor. …

Companies such as HealthTap, which has signed up 100,000 US doctors to serve its global audience in 100 countries, are seeking to find a niche in the increasingly crowded market known as telemedicine. …

But not all doctors, especially older practitioners, are convinced that a remote visit is the same as a face-to-face examination. … Salvatore Mangione, an associate professor at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, wrote: “I’ve seen many cases in which technology unguided by bedside skills took physicians down a path where tests begot tests and where, at the end, there was usually a surgeon, and often a lawyer. Sometimes even an undertaker.”